Media affiliated with the Assad regime quoted statements from the Minister of Communications in the government of the regime, Iyad al-Khatib, and the head of the Media Committee of the “Applause Council” (People’s Assembly), Alan Bakr, as they included official justifications for tightening the Cybercrime Law, and stated that the law aims to preserve the prestige of the Assad regime and prevent any harm to it.
According to Khatib, the Cybercrime Law aims to preserve privacy when accessing the Internet, and “the prestige of the state”. It has also tightened penalties, both financial and judicial when the offense is committed against information related to the state and the employee charged with public work”.
He claimed that the law included the addition of new articles and the amendment of some of them “in line with technological development.” Among the added articles, the impersonation of a personal account, abuse of information credit, electronic slander and contempt, crimes of decency or modesty, crimes of insulting religions and undermining the state’s financial prestige, and crimes related to the electronic card.
The media official in the “Applause Council” stated that work on this law was carried out by a government team for a year, as it was submitted by the Ministry of Communications in cooperation with the Ministries of Justice and Interior, and other concerned parties, then it was sent to the Applause Council and a joint committee was formed to study it.
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He added that when sharing a post or expressions that harm national unity and incite hatred and discrimination in all fields, including sports, the owner of the post and anyone who comments on it and circulates it on all social media platforms “Facebook, Telegram, WhatsApp” will be punished.
He pointed out that when a journalist writes for an official or private institution licensed by the Ministry of Information or makes a statement to a media outlet, he is held accountable according to the media law, but when he writes on his personal page on social media and offends an individual or institution, he is held accountable according to the Cybercrime Law.
He considered that “harming the prestige of the state is an unmeasurable case, but it does not mean protecting a minister or any official.” Sharing the offense constitutes the same offense in terms of punishment, because it may be more serious and will reach a greater number of followers, and when a person shares certain content, he adopts it.
“This law does not restrict freedoms and does not protect the corrupt, but sets standards and controls for regulating online work. When Law No. 17 was passed in 2012, the proportion of Internet users in Syria was 37%, but today it has reached 59%, so law 17 had to be reviewed and a new law was passed”, he estimated.
On April 18th, Bashar al-Assad, issued Law No. 20 of 2022, which reorganizes the penal code for cybercrime, and included about 50 Articles that provide for tougher penalties for electronic publishing offenses, with the imposition of fines reaching millions of pounds, and imprisonment for years. Despite these amendments sparking widespread controversy on social media, the law will be effective as of May 18th.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.